The Senate vote on the Farm Bill may take place this week. One amendment in the Bill would make cuts in the crop insurance program at a time when the farm economy is already in trouble. Dr. John Newton, economist with the AFBF, said farm debt is at a record high, farm loan denials are running 8% higher than a year ago, and farm bankruptcies in Indiana are up over 8%. But some in the Senate want to make cuts in the safety net program.
Newton told the Indiana Farm Bureau policy outlook meeting on Tuesday that an amendment in the Senate bill would reduce crop insurance coverage for producers with average gross incomes of over $700,000, “We have a real uphill fight on these means testing and eligibility requirements.” He estimated that there are only 25 Senate votes in favor of rejecting this approach, “When you think about taking farmers out of the crop insurance program or reducing the level of coverage they can buy, it weakens the whole system and makes it much riskier.”
Newton added the current trade war and lack of reform on immigration are also impacting the farm economy, ”Farmers need certainty from the crop insurance program that there will be coverage if they suffer a crop loss, they need certainty that there will markets to sell their grain to when they harvest it, and they certainty they will have access to a labor market.” After his address to the IFB meeting, Newton told HAT that action is needed quickly to resolve these issues before combines roll this fall, “I would certainly hate to be an elected official going into the election without having taken action on a new Farm Bill or resolving these trade disputes.”
Senate Agriculture Chairman Pat Roberts told reporters he wants the sweeping agriculture and nutrition legislation to pass before the Fourth of July recess. But amendments offered on the floor could slow this process. There is also a big push for checkoff reform from a bipartisan pair of Senators, Mike Lee (R-UT) and Cory Booker (D-NJ). Still other groups are pushing for conservation and animal rights amendments.